NewsLocal News

Actions

Baltimore State’s Attorney candidates address plans for squeegee workers

mosby.jpg
Posted at 9:38 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 08:21:03-04

BALTIMORE — Standing in the middle of several downtown Baltimore streets are teens, children, and even some adults, holding squeegees with a bottle of windex.

At those intersections, when the light turns red, those squeegee workers rush to cars waiting at the traffic light, and whether drivers want it, or not, they will spray the windshield of those cars.

One squeegee worker told WMAR-2 News on Tuesday they are just working for an honest dollar.

“We’re not trying to hurt nobody," squeegee worker James said. "That’s what I want them to know. We’re not trying to hurt nobody. We’re just trying to make an honest dollar and stay out the way."

ELECTION GUIDE

Squeegee Wash opens in Downtown Baltimore, gives squeegee kids a place to make money

Drivers told WMAR-2 News they are a nuisance, and cause disruptions if a driver tells them, "no," or passes by without giving a few bucks.

“We said, we told you no,” recalled Karen Hummer. "And he grabbed a hold of the windshield wiper and pulled it out, twisted it almost completely off the car, bent it all the way over to the side, and Tom put the window down and said, hey, what are you doing, and then he took his spray cleaner and just started spraying us in the face in the car.”

MORE: Event held to lead Baltimore's youth, squeegee workers to career path

With the primary election just days away, the way Baltimore leaders address these squeegee workers will be a big factor for the winner.

MORE: Man shot and killed after altercation with squeegee workers near Inner Harbor

On the July 19 ballot for Baltimore City's State's Attorney's Office is Marilyn Mosby, Thiru Virignarajah and Ivan Bates.

Following the July 7 murder of Timothy Reynolds, who was shot and killed after confronting a squeegee worker near the Inner Harbor, the candidates voiced their plans to fix the squeegee worker issue in Baltimore City.

MORE: Man describes squeegee worker attack hours before deadly Harbor shooting

Squeegee workers have been part of Baltimore’s culture for decades. It has now become a political talking point following the shooting death of the driver who swung a bat at a group of squeegee workers.

It's a street hustle that’s become part of the Charm City’s culture, and now a high profile issue in the race for Baltimore City State’s Attorney.

MORE: Amid heightened concern, squeegee workers connect with workforce developer

Marilyn Mosby discusses plan for squeegee

Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore’s current State's Attorney, said she doesn't want to see children get arrested just for trying to make a little money, but she is worried that's what her opponents will do.

"The core of both of my opponents’ plans is to return to a time of mass incarceration and over policing of Black and brown communities,” Mosby said. “They can dress it up with fancy power points, but ultimately, it is a return to failed policies that have left communities of color hollowed and fractured."

Mosby, while receiving the endorsement of several faith leaders, said Baltimore needs to come up with communal solutions, rather than charging them, like possibly more resources and job opportunities.

"I don’t believe in incarcerating or locking up 12-year-olds who are merely on the corner trying to survive, so we have to figure this out," Mosby said. "We can’t continue to resort to these failed policies of the past and thinking we are somehow going to see different results. The criminalization of young people, of Black people, it has got to change."

Mosby’s challengers released their plans, while a bit different, both focused on providing services and being stricter about enforcement.

Ivan Bates said he will get the squeegee workers off the streets in 60 days, and would repeal the current policy of not prosecuting low-level offenses.

"Community court will serve as the place that now two things can happen with your cases," Bates said. "One, an individual, a squeegee worker can agree to go into the diversion program that Mayor Scott has it up, or No. two, the individual can agree to be prosecuted."

Bates added that he is determined to hold squeegee workers accountable for their actions.

"It’s not about being tough on squeegee workers but it’s about following the law and accountability," Bates said.

Thiru Vignarajah said his squeegee plan would last 90 days.

The first 30 days would have his office work with squeegee workers, connecting them with job resources.

The second 30 days he would have officers confiscate squeegees and spray bottles as a warning.

The final 30 days would have officers enforce laws on the books which prohibit soliciting to drivers on public roads.

Vignarajah said he will give offenders an option if arrested -- get job assistance or face a $100 fine and or up to 30 days in jail.

The five cornerstones of Vignarajah’s plan include:

  • Confiscate Contraband. The Office will work with law enforcement partners to use existing city laws prohibiting squeegee work to confiscate contraband related to this criminal activity.
  • Enforce the Law. Where other options fail, the State’s Attorney’s Office will work with law enforcement to bring charges and, as a condition of probation, to give squeegee workers an additional opportunity to connect with apprenticeships and jobs. Finally, squeegee workers who have destroyed property, assaulted drivers, or are caught with guns or drugs will be prosecuted appropriately.
  • Connect to Steady Employment. For young, entrepreneurial squeegee workers who are genuinely interested in finding meaningful work, the State’s Attorney’s Office will take the lead on identifying them, understanding their strengths, finding them suitable work with fair wages, and ensuring they have the skills necessary to succeed.
  • Create Alternative Employment. For squeegee workers who are not prepared for steady employment, the State’s Attorney’s Office will partner with businesses like gas stations to give them a safe and suitable place to—for example—clean windshields, fill up flat tires, or pump gas in exchange for tips.
    Connect Commit to Treatment. The State’s Attorney’s Office will work closely with law enforcement, the area’s network of treatment centers, and other partners to connect individuals who are principally doing squeegee work to pay for their addiction to the resources and treatment services they require to get better.

"There are squeegee kids who deserve better and there are individuals who are only going to respond to enforcement," Vignarajah said. "We’re actually confiscating the squeegees themselves and make it harder to do this work fall by. We’re going to enforce the law and bring charges if needed. Those cases don’t need to go to trial. We need to get them into system to give them a chance to get the jobs and the opportunities they deserve."